Sports Shorts for March 30

by Aaron Garcia, Andrew Stark and C. Jemal Horton

First-year Myers Park baseball coach Matt Burnett. Aaron Garcia/SCW photo

Mustangs, new baseball coach finding their way
On March 26, the Myers Park baseball team suffered a tough loss to Southwestern 4A conference foe South Mecklenburg, 3-1. The Mustangs had the bases loaded but couldn’t muster the offense to move the runners around. The loss dropped the Mustangs’ record to 4-6 on the season.

But even the heartbreaking loss couldn’t deter coach Matt Burnett, who is in his first year leading the Mustangs after coaching last season at Sanford’s Southern Lee High School, a Class 3A program.

“Myers Park is a great, great job,” said Burnett. “There’s a handful of great jobs in the state of North Carolina, and Myers Park came open and it was a situation where I had to take a look at it. It turned out to be a great fit.

“It really appealed to me. The conference is so amazing, and the tradition here, coming in, I’m just trying to keep the tradition going.”

Burnett began his coaching career in 2002 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Western Guilford High School. After a one-year stop at Washington High School in eastern North Carolina, Burnett then took the helm at Southern Lee, where he went 16-9 last season and advanced to the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.

Burnett said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the vigor with which his Mustang players have attacked the season and is pleased with the team’s progress so far. A defensive-minded coach, Burnett said the pitching staff has been solid, but the team needs to find its way offensively.

“I tell this group of guys that from top to bottom, this is probably my favorite group of kids to coach because they’re so eager to learn,” Burnett said. “They’re so coachable. It’s a real joy to be around these guys day in and day out.

“They’ve really bought into what we’re trying to do as a coaching staff, and they come to work every day ready to get better. They’ve got a tremendous work ethic, and I couldn’t be happier with this group.”

Charlie Gordon has been solid on the mound for the Mustangs but has gathered a few hard-luck losses, and Burnett added that John Beaver has been effective on the mound as well. Alex Fink has emerged as the team’s closer and has been a revelation with three saves and an ERA south of 2.00.

And Burnett knows the offense is on its way, especially with hitters such as Ross Jeffries, Ryan Ahlum and Ross Groome in the lineup.

“Our sticks are almost there,” Burnett said. “We’ve gotten into some offensive ruts, but we’re striking the ball well, but we’re snakebit; we’re hitting the ball right at (the other team’s players). When this team finally puts it together – and it is going to happen this year – we’re going to be a pretty good baseball team.”

Catholic lacrosse building depth the hard way
Before the 2012 boys lacrosse season, Charlotte Catholic coach Bo Turner thought he would end up with an uncommonly deep roster by the time the postseason rolled around. While the Cougars were to benefit from a roster brimming with crafty veterans, Turner pointed to a host of inexperienced players that appeared ready to step into the spotlight.

But rather than ease the newcomers’ transition to the varsity game, a rash of injuries to key veterans has left Turner with little choice but to play the youngsters, early and often. So far, with a 7-2 overall record and a No. 9 ranking in the latest state poll by laxpower.com, it appears the Cougars’ neophytes are playing like grizzled vets.

Just minutes into the Cougars’ game against Tennessee’s McCallie School on March 9, starting senior midfielder Connor Flynn broke his leg and was lost for the season. Then, later in the first quarter, Tyler Jankun suffered an injury to his Achilles’ heel. The Cougars lost the game, 7-6, and fell in their next game, 9-8 to Waxhaw Marvin Ridge on March 13.

Turner said that while Jankun is working himself back from his injury, Flynn is “probably out for the year.” But the fact that the Cougars have won three consecutive games over strong clubs such as Cuthbertson and Weddington shows the younger players on the Cougars roster are starting to adjust to the varsity level.

“I’ve got a handful of young guys, and they’re finding their way,” Turner said. “I threw them out there, and they’re getting there, slowly but surely.
“There’s no quit in them. We might get down a couple of goals but we just scrap and battle and get back in it.”

Turner commended freshman Jacob Priester for his play while filling in for the seniors.

“He’s a beast,” Turner said. “I haven’t had a kid that tough before. He gets after it.”

Fellow freshman James Powers has also been solid while filling in at the midfield spot, said Turner, as has junior Kevin Jette, senior Dylan Powers, Brian Schneider and Brad Nelson. Turner also said the attacking duo of Nick Sawyer and Tim Egan has helped ease the transition with an average margin of victory of 4.5 goals.

On Saturday, March 31, the Cougars travel to Maryland to face local power Severn School. After that, the Cougars will travel to Loyola University in Maryland to watch the Greyhounds host Ohio State. Three Charlotte Catholic alums will play in the game. Loyola attacker Mike Sawyer leads the Greyhounds with 36 points (29 goals, seven assists), while his brother, Matt, has appeared in all seven of the team’s games. Michael Italiano, a former Cougar midfielder, has appeared in all nine of the Buckeyes’ contests and has tallied two goals and an assist.

Though he has former players on each of the college teams, Turner left little doubt about which team would receive his greatest support.

“I can’t wait (for the game),” said Turner. “I told the Sawyer boys and Italiano that the first one to send me either a Loyola shirt or an Ohio State shirt, that’s who I’m pulling for. I might have to cut them in half and sew them together.

“It’ll be fun. I can’t wait to see those guys.”

Providence day tennis gains valuable experience
The Providence Day boys tennis team began the season with a 5-4 record and, in addition to having a winning record, has played some tough competition that coach Ryan Harper believes will pay off in the end.

Providence Day played its first match in North Carolina on March 21 and defeated Forsyth Country Day, 8-1. Before that, the Chargers competed in the National High School All-American Tennis Invitational in Corona del Mar, Calif., where they played four matches against teams from Newport Beach, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., and New York City. They faced Irvine, Calif’s University High School, which is one of the nation’s best programs.

Harper said the experience gained by playing such tough competition will only help the Chargers.

“The last three were very close losses,” Harper said. “We’re getting better at handling adversity and not letting bad points or games affect us, but this will still need to be a major area of focus.”

Before the tournament in California, the Chargers kicked off the season by winning the Florence (S.C.) Invitational, taking four matches on March 2-3.

Three players have stood out so far to Harper: senior John Camper, who is 3-3 on the year; Chris Nash at 4-2; and Kiko Mawougbe at 2-0.

“(John) played some amazing tennis in California, (especially) in singles, and has steadily improved since the beginning of the year,” Harper said. “(Chris) put in a lot of time in the (California) tournament and really stepped up to show us a consistent level of intimidating tennis, and (Kiko) has really stepped up his game from last year with a lot of hard work over the summer.”

Despite missing six top players, the Chargers came in third place at Charlotte Country Day’s Buccaneer Classic March 23-24. Freshman Alex Comisar won the No. 5 flight, and sophomore David Sowers won the No. 6 flight for the Chargers.

“I am very satisfied with the overall skill level and technical games of our players,” Harper said. “They are each learning to be more aware of their opponents’ strengths and how they can best exploit them.”

Providence Day will host the East-West Tennis Challenge on Friday, March 30.

Wells Fargo tickets on sale at SouthPark Mall
On March 28, tickets for The Wells Fargo Championship went on sale at the highly regarded golf tournament’s SouthPark Mall kiosk.

The PGA Tour event will be held April 30 through May 6 at south Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club. All ticket packages will be available at the SouthPark Mall kiosk.

With this option, patrons will save the $10 shipping and handling fees and have the ability to walk away with tickets in hand.

The Wells Fargo Championship kiosk at SouthPark Mall will be located at Center Court, near the escalators. Operation hours will be Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Premium tickets and some corporate hospitality packages are also available. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the tournament website www.­WellsFargoChampionship.com or  calling the tournament office at 704-554-8101.

Parking at authorized lots, shuttle service to and from Quail Hollow Club and applicable taxes are included in the price of tickets.

To accommodate families, children ages 12 and under are free with a paid adult admission (one child per paying adult).

There are several ground ticket options available. They include:
• Weekly Book for $140. It includes admission to all seven days of the tournament and represents a savings of $75. The same individual does not have to use the ticket each day, allowing family members, friends and business associates to share the experience of the event;
• Practice Pack for $25. It consists of individual daily tickets for Monday’s Pro-Am, Tuesday’s practice round and the popular Wednesday Pro-Am (price includes all three days and fans are permitted to bring cameras during these days);
• Thursday Individual Daily Ticket for $40 each;
• Friday, Saturday and Sunday Individual Daily Tickets for $50 each

Carolina Panther Olsen makes $50,000 donation in support of Charlotte medical community
Carolina Panther Greg Olsen recently made a generous charitable donation in the amount of $50,000 to the Carolina healthcare system on behalf of his foundation, Receptions for Research.

The star tight end’s donation will benefit both Carolina’s Breast Cancer Fund as well as the soon-to-open Levine Cancer Center. Carolina’s Breast Cancer Fund chiefly supports patient education and outreach programs for Carolina Medical Center breast cancer patients, as well as CMC clinical research and treatment initiatives associated with breast cancer. The Levine Cancer Center, scheduled to open in fall 2012, is part of an innovative vision to deliver community-based cancer care across the Carolinas, building upon its strong network of affiliated hospitals and providers.

Olsen founded Receptions for Research in 2009 in honor of his mother, Susan, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. While today his mother is a 10-year survivor, having seen the difficult road his mom incurred, Olsen wanted to find a way to give back and help other cancer patients.

“I saw how painful and difficult the cancer diagnosis and treatment were on my mom,” Olsen said, “however, she is lucky enough to have a second chance at life and through Receptions for Research, our hope is that the thousands of other people who are affected by this terrible disease also get a second chance.”

Receptions for Research hosts various fundraising events throughout the year, including a kickball tournament in Chicago and, coming soon, an event at premier Southeast nightclub, Coyote Joes.

“Everyone here in Charlotte has been so welcoming to my family and me, we couldn’t be happier to give back and support the community in this way,” Olsen said.

For more information visit www.receptionsforresearch.org.

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